Elder Matthew Nielsen

"You are assigned to labor in the Brazil Fortaleza East mission"

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Bianca is Baptized!

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Service Project Moving Dirt!

Bianca is Baptized!

Hello Family and Friends!

Guess what?  Remember I told you about a young woman who I felt sure that she would be baptized soon?  Well Bianca was baptized last week!  I was so happy for her.  She will do wonderful things in her life.

This week, we had interviews with President Leite.  And this week will be the last transfer possibility before I leave.  Isn’t this crazy?  I’m happy that I’ve been able to keep my head in the game as I am nearing the completion of my mission.  I have a great desire to finish my mission “on fire” about the work.  I want to run to the finish line.  It’s hard but I will give it my all.  I’m a little nervous to know whether I will be transferred this week.  I’d rather spend the remaining 6 weeks here.

We travelled a lot this week to prepare for the marriage of Cristiane and Betista, the owners of a pizza restaurant here.  I like them quite a bit and not because of the pizza they give us either!  Haha!  I’m excited to see them get married and baptized.

I also travelled to Pindoretama, which is quite a distance from Fortaleza.  I was helping the sister missionaries with a few things in their area.  It felt good to be able to help them.

Impressions of Brazil:

  1. I’ve met quite a few people in Brazil who are studying to be preachers so they can open new churches.
  2. Wearing cologne and perfume is very popular here.  Everyone, even really young people, wear it.  And vendors are selling it in the streets.

There are so many people that I have come to know who have said that they feel abandoned by God.  Or that they feel like no one knows what they are feeling.  I think we have all been there at one time.  I have.  In these hard times, I can say that it wasn’t easy and that I suffered a lot.  But in the end, I came out of these trials and tests stronger and with a greater knowledge of how to help others who are going through hard things.  I know and can testify to you that God does not abandon his children.  He is your Father and is aware of the pain you are experiencing.  He loves you and knows that you need to go through these trials to become stronger, to become better.  He does not have joy in the fact that you are in pain.  He cries and suffers along with you.  Have patience in the promise of God that everything will “work together for your good”.

I love you,

Elder Nielsen

With God, Nothing is Impossible!

Hello Family and Friends!

We had a mission conference with the new mission president, President Leite and his family.  He brought 2 children to the mission, a son and a daughter.  The daughter is 14 years old and the son is 11 years old.

President Leite gave us some words to live by in the mission field:  “ECOST”:  E is for ensino or TEACHING; C is for COMPANIONSHIP; O is for OBEDIENCE; S is for seguir o espirito Santo or FOLLOW THE HOLY GHOST; T is for trabalho or WORK!  He wants us to focus on these things.  President Fusco always motivated us to follow the suggestions in Preach My Gospel, follow the Spirit, and learn each day about the doctrine of Christ.  So the approaches are a little different, but both are very good.  I look forward to learning more from President Leite.

We got to know a young woman named Bianca (17 years old) two weeks ago.  We were walking in the street and we passed a state park and all of a sudden Bianca and her friend Camila called us over to talk with them.  They asked us a bunch of questions and we ended up discovering that Camila has an uncle who is a bishop of the church.  Well we got their addresses and said that we would speak with them on another day.  We have been teaching Bianca and sometimes Camila since then.  Bianca loves the church a lot.  She went to church last Sunday and had a great experience.  It seems like she’s always been a member of the church.  She fits right in with the other young women.  I have no doubt that Bianca will be baptized soon.  She is also a very talented person.  She sings, plays the guitar, dances, speaks English, and she loves to skate!

Impressions of Brazil:

  1. Here in Fortaleza, Sundays are beach days.
  2. Knives are used at every meal, whether the food needs cutting or not.  I believe it is used to keep everything on the fork!
  3. Missionaries LOVE to eat pizza here.  There are a lot of pizza restaurants around, so we decided to get to know one of the owners.  And yes, we have been getting discounts on our pizza lunches!  Yay!

You have all heard this scripture before:  “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.  (Isaiah 1:18)  If you truly repent of your sins, then God says that he will no longer remember them.  The slate is wiped clean.  Then why is it that so many of us continue to dwell on our past sins, even after we have repented?  If God can let it go, then why can’t we?  Sometimes we allow others to open old wounds.  But this is not God’s way.  It’s how the adversary works.  The adversary loves to discourage us and take away our hope.  He loves to make us feel unworthy by dwelling on our past mistakes.  Repentance gives us a wonderful opportunity to start over, to begin again…like clicking the “refresh” button on your computer.  Just repent and keep moving forward.  Be willing to grow and change.  This process can be hard at times, but remember that you are never alone.  If God is by your side, then nothing is impossible.

Have a great week!

Elder Nielsen

Working Hard!

Baptisms of Itíne, Isaac and Roberta

Matt211-1.jpgHello Family and Friends!

Our new mission president arrived last Wednesday.  I was able to speak to him for a little while.  He seems like a very calm and loving man.  I look forward to getting to know him over the coming weeks.  The first thing he did when he saw my companion and I was to get up quickly from where he was sitting and hug each of us.  This was a great first impression of this man!

Both he and my old mission president have known each other for years.  They served missions together.  President Leite was an assistant to his mission president and trained President Fusco to be an assistant when he was ending his mission.  They are good friends and have worked together professionally over the years.  Both men have had careers as lawyers.  We will be having our first mission conference with President and Sister Leite on Tuesday.

My week turned out great, but I am so exhausted!  We are working very hard, because I want to return home knowing that I gave it my all.  This week, we had the blessing of baptizing 3 wonderful people.  One is named Roberta.  She was taught some time ago by the sister missionaries, but for some reason, the sisters stopped teaching her.  During her time with the sisters, Roberta received an answer to her prayers and knew that the church was true.  Some time went by, then the Elders began teaching her, but nothing moved forward.  When we found her, she was ready to be baptized.  She is also 9 months pregnant!  Baptisms are miracles from God.

Impressions of Brazil:

  1. Most of the streets here are made with stones and this makes it hard to walk on them sometimes.  Seriously, every single day I am tripping on some big rock that I didn’t see!
  2. And speaking of roads here, just the other day, we were walking home on a sandy trail.  Well, all of a sudden a horse that was lying down on the sand and covered in it, stood up as we were passing by.  We both jumped!  Camouflaged horses.

God will always provide a way to help us keep the commandments, if we are willing to try.  I love the scripture from 1 Nephi 3:7:  “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I knew that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”  I know it’s tough to be obedient when others are not.  But there are blessings in store for those who strive to follow the commandments and listen to the words of God and his prophets.

I miss and love all of you!

Elder Nielsen

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My New District!

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Eleude’s Baptism!

Last Mission Conference With President and Sister Fusco

Hello Family and Friends!

Sorry about being late with my email this week.  But President and Sister Fusco surprised us with their final mission conference on Monday.  Honestly, it was the best mission conference I have had.  It lasted basically the entire day and I learned so much.  I could feel their love for us and their sadness in leaving the mission field.  To me, the best part of the conference was the final testimony of President Fusco.

He spoke about the difficulties and challenges he had growing up, having very little money.  He said that he had to leave on his mission at a time when his mother was very sick and that his mom died not long after he returned from his mission.  He felt that he was never given easy options in life, but had to always work hard to accomplish anything.  He said that God gives us challenges to test our faith and to help us become the best that we can be.  But with all the challenges that he had, he said that God never left him alone, even when it seemed that every door was closed in his life and that his future looked dark.  He said that God was holding him in his arms in those moments.  He encouraged us to not give up when things get hard and that we will become strong through these trials, like he has become strong.

I absolutely love President Fusco and his wife.  It has been so hard to see them prepare to leave us.  But I look forward to getting to know the new mission president and his wife, President and Sister Leite.  I have no doubt that they will be incredible leaders.  But I am so grateful that I was able to know President and Sister Fusco.  They have changed my life.  They have helped me to gain a strong testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ and his gospel.  They have helped me to learn the love of hard work.  They have helped me to learn how to love all people, no matter who they are or what they have done.  They have helped me to understand that I am a child of the living God and that I have potential to be like him one day because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  I love them so much and wish them the very best with their lives.

Impressions of Brazil:

  • The favorite pastime of most people here is flying kites!  Literally EVERYONE flies kites.  It is actually quite cool to see so many kites flying in the air!

This last week while we were visiting some people, out of nowhere, a family approached us.  In the past, this family had attended our church and the children were even baptized.  But they became less active.  Over time, the parents separated.  So when we met and began teaching the mom, Eleude, she told us that she wanted to get baptized.  So last week, we had the blessing of participating in her baptism.  This was truly a miracle, because she had been forgotten.  I feel that God literally put her in our path so that she could be baptized.

Until next week!

Elder Nielsen

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Sister Fusco, the Mission President’s Wife!

Saying Goodbye to the People of Cidade Nova

I’ve Been Transferred!

Hello Family and Friends!

Time is passing so quickly.  I can’t believe that I will be home in just 11 weeks!  It feels like yesterday that I entered the MTC, not knowing anything about the mission field.  Sister Fusco said it perfectly when she told us that when she flew into the mission area for the first time, that she looked down on all the houses and people in the streets and thought that there wasn’t enough time to get everything done!  I feel the same way.  I need more time to help all of these people.

I was transferred this week!  This was unexpected for me.  My new area is called Cidade dos Funcionarios.  It’s really close to the mission home.  It’s a great area.  I love the people here.  My companion is Elder Silva.  He is from Sao Paulo.  He is new to the mission field, so I will be training him.  He seems like a great person.  I look forward to working with him.

Impressions of Brazil:

  • The church organized a new Stake last week in Juazeiro, which is the first stake in the state of Ceará that is located in a rural area.  The church is growing really fast here is Ceará!

As I was getting to know the new area and the people, I got the chance to talk with someone really cool.  His name is Paulo.  He served a mission, but when he returned, he felt like no one noticed him (he doesn’t have family who are members of the church) and he stopped going to church.  His inactivity lasted for about 15 years.  He said that he knew the church was true during all of these years, and for this reason, he did not go to any other church.  But one day while he was working, his first missionary companion appeared at the door with a person that they had baptized all of those years ago.  He said that this visit sparked the desire in him to return to church.  This last Sunday, after a month of being active again, he was called to be a ward missionary!  Isn’t this such a wonderful story?

Paulo’s experience reminded me of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Imagine the joy that our Heavenly Father feels when he sees his children return back to him!  I feel like I understand, better than ever before, the love that God has for all of his children, including those who turn from him.  I also have a better understanding of the incredible patience that God has for each of us.  He just patiently waits for us to come walking down the path.  I can also feel the remorse of those who try to turn back toward God after living a life of sin.  But I can also understand the peace that comes through repentance.  I love these words, “And he arose, and came to his father.  But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.  And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.  But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”  (Luke 15: 20-24)

I bear my testimony to you that God loves you more than you will ever know.  And for those of you who stray from God, find the strength you need to take that first step on the path that leads back to him.  Through God, you will find rest and peace and forgiveness.

I love you,

Elder Nielsen

Mission Conference!

Hello Family and Friends!

In the beginning of the week, we had a wonderful conference with Elder Christensen and his wife.  Sister Christensen gave a great talk.  She encouraged us to be more committed to Christ and his teachings.  Our purpose on earth is to keep the commandments and become like Christ in every way.  She said that on each of the temples of the church is written the words, “Holiness to the Lord” and that “commitment” or devotion is another word for “holiness”.  She asked us to “deliver our hearts to God”.  We must do this every day, little by little.  Our commitment doesn’t happen all at once.  She emphasized the Book of Mormon as an important tool to accomplish these goals.

Then we heard from Elder Christensen.  He shared a story about Elder Richard G. Scott taking a plane flight and preparing a talk for when he reached his destination.  While writing his talk, he would receive inspiration and he would write that inspiration in the margins of his paper, then he would continue writing his talk.  Elder Scott related that when he finished his talk, he realized that the Lord was directing him to write on a certain subject.  Elder Scott was saying that we need to listen to the Holy Ghost and do what he is instructing us to do.  We should write about those things that come from the spirit of God so that we don’t forget them.  Inspiration will come when we are doing the Lord’s work.

Elder Christensen spoke a lot about the process of conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He said that every time we have a spiritual experience, that we become more converted.  He said that we need to have a powerful change of heart and he said that we can gain this change of heart through the Book of Mormon.  He said that we need to read this book like we are reading it for the first time, like Joseph Smith while translating the book.  He reminded us that the Book of Mormon can help to resolve problems and give peace to our hearts and strength to help us keep the commandments.  He also said that revelation is when we connect a feeling with a thought.  He said that Moses was a great example of this principle when he received revelation to part the Red Sea.  He must have initially had the feeling that doing this was an impossibility, but after receiving guidance from the Holy Ghost, it became both a feeling as well as mental confirmation.  This is revelation!  Such great thoughts, right?

Then Elder Christensen he called for the mission presidents of the Brazil – Fortaleza and Brazil – Fortaleza East missions and he asked them questions. He asked President Fusco, how can we distinguish between our own thoughts and the thoughts of the spirit?  President Fusco said that he learned from Elder Bednar that if we are keeping the commandments, that we don’t have to decide whether our thoughts are coming from the spirit, because we are in tune with the spirit through our obedience.

We were really productive the rest of the week.  We were so exhausted!  We are teaching a lot of people that live on the farthest part of our boundaries, which means we are walking a lot!  But things are moving along here.  We are teaching a lot of people who really have an interest in learning the gospel.  One of these people is an elderly woman named Zeraide.  She is 70 years old and the grandmother of other family members who converted to the church in Aracati.  (Remember this city has one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil called Canoa Quebranda.)  Her whole family lived there and she met the missionaries there, but then most of her family moved to Cidade Nova, where I serve now, and she decided to move with them.  She went to church with her daughter and 2 sons, but wasn’t baptized.  We have taught her and she has decided to be baptized.  This was truly a miracle.  She will be a strong member without a doubt.  She loves the church.

Impressions of Brazil:

The people of the south that live in the Rio Grande do Sul believe that this place is the best place to live in all of Brazil!  They remind me of the Texans in the States!  They have a lot of pride for their state.

That’s about it for now.  Have a great week!

Elder Nielsen

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